January 7, 2017

Webinar: Working with Library Juice Press: An Orientation

Working with Library Juice Press: An Orientation

Presenter: Alison M. Lewis, Chief Acquisitions Editor for Library Juice Press

This free webinar will provide an overview of the processes involved in having a book published with Library Juice Press. Topics covered will include types of books we publish, submitting a proposal, working with your editor, creating a quality manuscript, and an overview and timeline of the publishing process. The intended audience is anyone curious about our publishing process, particularly those who are potentially interested in submitting a book proposal to us. Authors and editors who currently have a book contract with us may also wish to attend. The presentation will last approximately 45 minutes, with 10-15 minutes for questions afterwards.

February 1st, 12 noon EST. One hour duration.

No prior registration is necessary. Just go here at the meeting time:

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December 19, 2016

Journal of Radical Librarianship call for editors

———- Forwarded message ———-
From: Stuart Lawson <00000a1635137d03-dmarc-request@jiscmail.ac.uk>
Date: 2016-12-19 7:56 GMT-03:00
Subject: [RLC-DISCUSS] Journal of Radical Librarianship: call for editors
To: RLC-DISCUSS@jiscmail.ac.uk


The Journal of Radical Librarianship has now been running for over two years. The number of articles we’ve published has been small, but a couple of research articles have been published this year – Jennifer Soutter’s ‘The Core Competencies for 21st Century CARL (Canadian Association of Research Libraries) Librarians: through a neoliberal lens’, and Ian Clark’s ‘The digital divide in the post-Snowden era’ – and more are in the pipeline.

Since it’s been a while since we started the journal, the current editors have decided it’s time to make an explicit call for other people to get involved as well if they wish. The initial editorial group has worked well but it was formed by whoever who willing and able at the time, and it was never intended to be static. Two people have recently stepped down as editors so it would be a good time for anyone who is interested in joining to come on board.

The journal can publish articles across a wide range of subject areas. The ones we have designated to specific editors at the moment are listed on the website (https://journal.radicallibrarianship.org/index.php/journal/about) but this is by no means exhaustive and we would welcome anyone with expertise in an area they feel is not represented – or to volunteer to share editorial responsibilities for an area that is listed.

‘Editorial responsibilities’ essentially means guiding research and theory articles through peer review. Feel free to ask me anything about the process off-list if you like. In addition, please let us know if you’d be happy to lend your time as a peer reviewer.

Stuart (on behalf of the editors)

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April 30, 2016

Why we like Amazon and generally don’t work with independent bookstores

In the early 2000s, as Amazon was emerging as a major player in the book world, I understood them as the faceless evil that was killing off the independent bookstore, which by contrast represented (along with libraries) the individuality of human understanding, the knowledge of literature, independence of spirit, and the flickering candle of enlightenment; in short, everything that was good. Publishing was said to need independent bookstores to survive. It was good to be motivated by such a drama.

Considering this context, you can imagine how surprised I was to discover, as a new participant in the world of alternative press publishing in 2006, that Amazon would be our best outlet for books, and independent bookstores, with a few exceptions (most notably Bluestockings in New York) would be almost impossible to work with.

Let me explain by sharing some facts about the book trade and how our press fits into it.

The book trade has different segments; the ones we’re concerned with here are trade publishing and scholarly and professional publishing. Trade publishing is what most people think of when they think of the book trade. It’s the books that you find in bookstores and the public library, that authors talk about in radio interviews, and that get reviewed in the New York Times Book Review. To make money in trade publishing, publishers do a lot of advertising and marketing to achieve high sales figures, and compete on price. Profit margins are small, and publishers depend on big hits in order to be profitable. Bookstore sales are essential, and books reach bookstores through distributors. In order to make their money in all of this, bookstores expect a certain discount, and the distributors expect a cut as well. Bookstores also expect distributors to accept returns of all unsold copies. Typically, bookstores take a 45% cut of the retail price, with distributors taking an additional 15%. With the competition on price, that leaves just a sliver for the publisher on each copy sold. If that sliver is extended to 200,000 copies sold, it is significant money, making trade publishing a big business.

Scholarly and professional publishers, on the other hand, do not sell in high volumes. The market is mainly academic libraries, and in some cases university bookstores. A typical scholarly book that is sold to research libraries will sell 200 copies. As a rule of thumb, sales of 500 are necessary for a book to be profitable, and that is not always reached. Consequently, cover prices are much higher. Also, since this part of the industry doesn’t need to support brick and mortar outlets, vendors to libraries are willing to take a much smaller cut, generally 20 to 25% of the retail price. University bookstores have a captive audience and are willing to accept these kinds of discounts as well. And although they usually expect to be able to return unsold copies, they accept it when they can’t.

Enter Amazon. You have probably read about Amazon’s battles with major publishing conglomerates over pricing and discounts, and these stories make them appear to be the enemy of the publishing industry, squeezing profits and making things generally difficult (even as they give these publishers much of their sales). But that is a story about the trade segment of the industry. At the same time, Amazon gets a lot of its power though being a place where you can buy just about any book, including books coming from scholarly and professional publishing houses. In that market, Amazon participates according to the prevailing terms, meaning they accept a 25% discount and are okay with not being able to return unsold copies.

Library Juice Press and Litwin Books, being niche publishing imprints in scholarly and professional fields, have a business model that is based on low sales volume, small discounts, and generally a lack of interest from bookstores, which have a more general readership. On those rare occasions when an independent bookstore is interested in our books, usually to meet an individual customer’s request, they are likely unwilling to accept our terms, and there is no sale. “What should I tell the customer?” they sometimes ask. “They can buy it on Amazon.”

The implications of this state of affairs might be a bit sad, because independent bookstores are a unique sort of institution that represents important values. Independent booksellers actually know what they are selling, have read the books, have had the authors visit to read from them. They are knowledgable about books and literature and impart that knowledge to their book-loving clientele. Amazon, of course, is a powerful machine with no heart and no soul and no human understanding. At any rate, that is one way to think about it.

I would like to propose another way of thinking about the ecology of books and reading of which Amazon is a part. What independent bookstores offer, and represent, is connection to the readers in a local community. Communities now, however, can be geographically dispersed and bound together by shared interests, niche interests like library studies. A local community may have only a couple of people with those interests, not enough for the local bookstore to serve them profitably. Librarians who buy our books may find their local communities very important; they may buy locally, they may want their foods to be grown within a 50 mile radius, they may cultivate relationships in their neighborhoods, and they may patronize their local independent bookstores for that reason. But they continue to participate in geographically dispersed communities based on niche interests. Their love of what is local is generally not inspiring them to get rid of their internet connections. And if they want books related to their niche interests, Amazon is the soulless machine that serves them. It is the logistical source for buying books. Part of the function of an independent bookstore in this equation, however, is not logistical but knowledgable. That factor is replaced by another participant, one in which a lot of soul is present – the niche network of knowledgable people linked by social media. Where the independent bookseller helps customers find the right book, niche customers using Amazon already know what they want when they go to the site, because they have found out about it from peers, mentors, and mavens. So, independent bookstores are not being replaced only by Amazon in that context, but by soulful people as well, albeit ones who don’t get to talk face-to-face all that often. We are happy to let Amazon be their source because we exist in a geographically-dispersed niche that local independent bookstores are not a natural part of.

So that is where we stand.

There have been occasions, however, when we have produced a book that has a potential wider interest, like Chris Roth’s fantastic book on secessionist movements around the world. These experiences have been frustrating, because our position as a scholarly and professional publisher makes it impossible to give those books the marketing they deserve. Chris’s book in particular is one that people really want when they get a chance to see and touch it, so not having a good avenue to get it into bookstores has been a real hindrance to sales. Since that book is outside the niche network that we are connected to as a publisher, social media is less effective for us in marketing it. Distributors generally want the exclusive right to sell all the books in a given ISBN range, so we can’t give them just the one book to work with. Consequently, I feel pain over not being able to generate the sales that Chris’s book deserves. I feel good about bringing the book to publication (we developed the idea for it together), but in the future I will probably avoid getting involved in projects that really belong in the trade book marketplace. The idea of entering the cut-throat trade publishing market in earnest is not appealing.

If you have been reluctant to buy our books on Amazon, I hope what I’ve said might change your mind. If not, feel free to hate on Amazon and request our books at your library through inter-library loan. (Although that means one fewer sale, we feel that supporting libraries supports us by extension.)

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February 21, 2016

Clarification of our policies on copyright and such

Hi…. This is a follow-up to my December 15 post, “A note on our copyright statements.” I want to follow up because there was a comment that was critical of our copyright policies, apparently reading a few things into what I said that weren’t true. I responded to the comment but I wanted to make the clarification here.

The basic point of the earlier post was that a simple copyright statement on the copyright page of a book, e.g. “Copyright 2017 Wayne Bivens-Tatum,” or “Copyright 2015 respective authors” can be misleading about who actually has the publication rights. That’s because a publishing agreement often gives an exclusive right to the publisher, usually for a limited time. I wrote that post in a style that was maybe a little bit officious and legalistic, but copyright is about rules that can be a bit technical. It was this tone, I think, that gave the commenter the impression that we are highly proprietary about rights and not friendly enough to open access publishing. She asked why we don’t use a Creative Commons license, why the prices are so high for our books, why aren’t our books open access after an embargo period, and why don’t we use a contract that allows authors to use their work for whatever purposes they want. I addressed her questions in a response to her comment. I’ll put my answers here and say a bit more as well.

First, I want to say a bit about what is typically in our contracts with authors. The contracts differ between the authors or editors of a book and contributors of chapters to an edited volume. Contributors of chapters to an edited volume have always had an immediate right to put their work in an institutional repository, which qualifies us as open access to an extent. In addition, for the past few years our contracts with contributors have been “non-exclusive,” which means that in fact they can do whatever they want with their chapters right away and forever. They can put them on a website or whatever they want. We’re not too worried about this competing with book sales, since it distributes access to the contents through all of the different contributors and the different methods they want to use. The way we look at it, it would not be easy or necessarily possible to pull together the whole book for free, even though authors could get together to do that if they wanted (though that we not be very fair to us).

Authors of books or editors of collections get a different kind of contract that gives them less rights at first. They don’t sign over their copyright, but they give us a temporary exclusive right to publish their work, whether it’s a whole book or the editor’s contribution to a collection (introduction, arrangement, etc.). After maybe five years, our exclusive right automatically renews unless the authors ask for it not to. At that point they can have the right to renegotiate, to take it to another publisher, to make it freely available on a website, or whatever they want to do.

Since our rights are always limited, we don’t have the right to make someone else’s work open access or put it on a Creative Commons license, nor would it make sense financially. First, about not having the rights to do it. That is something that could theoretically be negotiated with an author, meaning that if it was okay with them we could write a contract that did that. I just want to point out that since we are not the owners of the copyright, we don’t have the right to make somebody else’s work open access. That would be on them, and they could still give us a non-exclusive right to publish it and hope to break even. But break even we at least hope to do, and contrary to what you may have read, making a book free does not increase sales. And we have to sell books to break even, and also to pay authors royalties, which they are interested in. Book authors and editors typically get 15% of sales. (Contributors of chapters get a free copy of the book, in addition to maintaining the rights to their work.)

So if open access publishing is not feasible for us as a book publisher, how can it exist? It does exist – there are plenty of open access publishers out there. Most of them are journal publishers, but some university presses are beginning to experiment with open access book publishing. What you may not know about this kind of thing is that it’s financed by charging authors to publish their work. The author of a journal article is typically charged $500 to $1000 to have her article published, even in a highly reputable journal. A book can cost an author easily $7500 for a university press to publish it open access. We don’t want to do that. Sometimes there is grant funding to pay these fees, and sometimes it comes out of a scholar’s own pockets. We really don’t want to do that, so open access publishing or Creative Commons publishing is not an option for us, not as long as we hope to break even.

Finally, a note about our book pricing. The commenter said our prices are high, and I responded that they are typically about half of what other LIS publishers charge. We have a philosophy of trying to make our books affordable so that people and not just libraries can buy them. But given the small quantities published, there’s no way we can compete with the low pricing of the giant trade publishers. It is all about breaking even. (Click the book covers on the right to see what our prices are like.) So I am confident that our prices are good given the overall market for LIS books.

In a typical year, we do just a little better than break even from selling books. And that is without paying us a salary, so in a sense it is all subsidized with our labor. Our online classes are more profitable, but I think that is not so much of an issue.

I hope that our policies, and our transparency, show that we are still an ethical publisher.

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Ramsey Kanaan on Resistance Radio

Ramsey Kanaan of AK Press and PM Press talked to Derrick Jensen on Resistance Radio again. (You can listen to a previous interview from August 16, 2015.)

Resistance Radio introduces him thusly:

Ramsey Kanaan has been involved in attempting to disseminate the good word for well over three and a half decades now. As a young teenager, he founded AK Press (named after his mothers initials) from his bedroom in Scotland. Hes co-founder and Publisher with PM Press. You can check out his current efforts at www.pmpress.org. Today we talk about the collapse of the book industry, and the implications for social change.

Don’t worry about the animal sounds at the beginning of the program. That’s how Jensen introduces his shows, instead of using theme music.

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August 23, 2015

Derrick Jensen interviews Ramey Kanaan about independent press and social change

Derrick Jensen’s Resistance Radio interview with Ramsey Kanaan…

Ramsey Kanaan has been involved in attempting to disseminate the good word for well over three and a half decades now. As a young teenager, he founded AK Press (named after his mothers initials) from his bedroom in Scotland. He’s co-founder and Publisher with PM Press. You can check out his current efforts at www.pmpress.org. We talk about the importance of independent publishing to social change.

(Note: the funny sounds at the start of the podcast are the sounds of a badger. Each week Derrick Jensen uses different wildlife sounds at the start of his show.)

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January 8, 2015

International Declaration of Independent Publishers 2014

From the website:

During the closing meeting of the International Assembly of Independent Publishers (Cape Town, South Africa, 18-21 September 2014), 400 independent publishers from 45 countries signed the International Declaration of Independent Publishers 2014.

Collectively drafted in three languages, on 20 September 2014, the Declaration 2014 is available in several languages (French, English, Spanish, Portuguese, Arabic, Farsi, Italian, etc.).

Read the declaration (PDF)

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December 6, 2014

Inland Editions

Inland Editions is a new publisher out of London that is particularly interested in libraries. They are preparing to publish their first book, which appears to be a beautifully designed art book primarily about library architecture. It’s called Bookspace, and they are running a Kickstarter campaign to fund its production. That seems a little bit hinky to me if they are a commercial publisher, but okay, they need capital because it appears to be a book that will be expensive to produce. The expected publication date is February 2015, coming right up. Inland Editions also has a blog that focuses on libraries and is quite different from the usual library-related fare, as they are not librarians but artists and intellectuals of various stripes.

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November 21, 2014

Ursula K Le Guin’s speech at National Book Awards: ‘Books aren’t just commodities’

“To the givers of this beautiful reward, my thanks, from the heart. My family, my agents, my editors, know that my being here is their doing as well as my own, and that the beautiful reward is theirs as much as mine. And I rejoice in accepting it for, and sharing it with, all the writers who’ve been excluded from literature for so long – my fellow authors of fantasy and science fiction, writers of the imagination, who for 50 years have watched the beautiful rewards go to the so-called realists.

Hard times are coming, when we’ll be wanting the voices of writers who can see alternatives to how we live now, can see through our fear-stricken society and its obsessive technologies to other ways of being, and even imagine real grounds for hope. We’ll need writers who can remember freedom – poets, visionaries – realists of a larger reality.

Right now, we need writers who know the difference between production of a market commodity and the practice of an art. Developing written material to suit sales strategies in order to maximise corporate profit and advertising revenue is not the same thing as responsible book publishing or authorship.

Yet I see sales departments given control over editorial. I see my own publishers, in a silly panic of ignorance and greed, charging public libraries for an e-book six or seven times more than they charge customers. We just saw a profiteer try to punish a publisher for disobedience, and writers threatened by corporate fatwa. And I see a lot of us, the producers, who write the books and make the books, accepting this – letting commodity profiteers sell us like deodorant, and tell us what to publish, what to write.

Books aren’t just commodities; the profit motive is often in conflict with the aims of art. We live in capitalism, its power seems inescapable – but then, so did the divine right of kings. Any human power can be resisted and changed by human beings. Resistance and change often begin in art. Very often in our art, the art of words.

I’ve had a long career as a writer, and a good one, in good company. Here at the end of it, I don’t want to watch American literature get sold down the river. We who live by writing and publishing want and should demand our fair share of the proceeds; but the name of our beautiful reward isn’t profit. Its name is freedom.”

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November 12, 2014

Should the United States Follow France and Declare Books an ‘Essential Good’?

The French Government has declared books an “essential good.” Daniel Mendelsohn and Mohsin Hamid in the NYT yesterday explore the idea of doing the same thing in the U.S. Here is a brief excerpt:

Whatever the cultural reasons, books in France are indeed an “essential good” — the designation coined by the French government that served to justify the very concrete steps it has taken over the years to protect its precious literary culture. The most prominent of these are laws outlawing the advantages (deep discounting combined with free shipping) that big chains and Amazon enjoy over independent booksellers in the United States and other countries. These help explain a phenomenon that inevitably strikes American visitors to France today: As even big chains such as Borders and Barnes & Noble have faltered here, every block in central Paris seems to sprout at least two small, intelligently stocked bookshops.

Read more…

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September 24, 2014

Journal of Scholarly Publishing – current issue TOC

Sharing the TOC of a journal I find very useful as a publisher. I think it also has a lot that would be of interest to academic librarians who do collection development.

Journal of Scholarly Publishing
Volume 46, Number 1

This Issue Includes:

University Press Forum 2014
Tom Radko
DOI 10.3138/jsp.46.1.001

Choice’s Compilation of Significant University Press Titles for Undergraduates, 2013-2014
Tom Radko
DOI 10.3138/jsp.46.1.002

Monographic Purchasing Trends in Academic Libraries:
Elisabeth A. Jones and Paul N. Courant
This article describes an exploratory study examining one contentious aspect of the relationship between university presses and academic libraries: the trends in purchases of university press books by academic libraries. The study provides an empirical basis for evaluating the frequent claim that the declining fortunes of university presses can be blamed primarily on declines in monographic purchasing by academic libraries. Our analysis indicates that this relationship is not clear-cut for at least three reasons: first, to the extent that purchasing reductions have occurred, they have occurred much more recently than many accounts have suggested; second, purchasing trends vary significantly between different sizes of libraries; and third, purchasing trends for university press books are very different from those for monographs in general. These findings cast substantial doubt on the proposition that changes in university library purchasing behaviour dating to the 1990s ‘serials crisis’ are principally responsible for the current economic malaise of university presses.
DOI 10.3138/jsp.46.1.003

From Book Publishers to Authors:
Elea Giménez-Toledo, Sylvia Fernández-Gómez, Carlos Tejada-Artigas and Jorge Mañana-RodrÍquez
The publishing processes and standards in scholarly journals are much better known than those of the publishers of scholarly books. Since scholarly books are key channels of communication and academic assessment in the humanities and social sciences, information provided by publishers concerning their publishing processes is very important both for authors and panelists (at funding and evaluation agencies). This article focuses on the analysis of the transparency of publishers in relation to the information they offer to authors. The main objective is to identify and analyze the publishing practices of two hundred scholarly book publishers of social sciences and humanities with respect to the information that they provide on their Web sites about their publishing processes. A lack of information on these Web sites is the main finding of the study. Among Spanish publishers, only 11.2 per cent explicitly state that they have a review system by experts. At the international level, the situation improves, but the shortcomings are still evident. Some guidelines for publishers are outlined and proposed.
DOI 10.3138/jsp.46.1.004

How to Be an Effective Peer Reviewer:
Stephen K. Donovan
Peer review is an essential component of modern academic publishing, but it is a task that is commonly learnt by trial and error rather than a published set of rules or principals. To review a research paper requires a close knowledge of the subject area, but contrasting reviews by a generalist and an expert in the field may provide a better appreciation of a paper’s merits to an editor than those of two experts. Reviews are there for the edification and information of the editor and to be passed on to the author; do your best to provide a constructive response.
DOI 10.3138/jsp.46.1.005

Book Reviews
Mary Jane Curry and Theresa Lillis, A Scholar’s Guide to Getting Published in English: Critical Choices and Practical Strategies, reviewed by Steven E. Gump

Laura N. Gasaway, Copyright Questions and Answers for Information Professionals: From the Columns of Against the Grain, reviewed by Sanford G. Thatcher

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March 5, 2014

The New Yorker looks at Amazon and the publishing industry

Just very quickly noting a great article in the New Yorker recently, by George Packer: Cheap Words: Amazon is good for customers. But is it good for books?

The article covers the history of Amazon as a firm and the complexities of their relations with the publishing industry. Good reading if you’re interested in what is happening in the book world.

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December 2, 2013

NY Times obituary for André Schiffrin

André Schiffrin, Publishing Force and a Founder of New Press, Is Dead at 78 (New York Times obituary).

I will take this as yet another occasion to recommend his very good book on the publishing industry, which he wrote in the 90s in part as a memoir, The Business of Books. He was an influence on more than just one generation of people in the book world.

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November 8, 2013

Libraries and the Alternative Press (Against the Grain Podcast)

An Against the Grain Podcast with Alycia Sellie, published 11/05/2013

Libraries and the Alternative Press

Unique and vital perspectives are and have been offered up by underground newspapers, zines, and other radical publications. But alternative materials are for the most part not carried by libraries. Alycia Sellie comments on the value of alternative publications and describes behind-the-scenes efforts, by her and other activist librarians, to get them into library collections.

Libraries and the Alternative Press was a big priority topic for Library Juice in years past, and an activity of mine within ALA/SRRT’s Alternative Media Task Force, formerly the Alternatives in Print Task Force. It is now inactive, but could be revived if anyone wants to take it on. Contact someone in SRRT if you feel inspired to do that.

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October 10, 2013

Comment’s on Eric Hellman’s note on eBook Copyright Pages

Eric Hellman, founder of Unglue.it, has a note in the current issue of the New York Law School Review titled, “The eBook Copyright Page is Broken.” It is a quick read, and what I have to say is in response to it, so please read it in order to understand what I am commenting on.

Hellman is active in the area of eBook publishing, exploring new economic models for their distribution, and very interested in how eBooks are changing the conditions of what we call publishing. I support his general project and agree in general terms that the technological foundation of eBooks has implications for the way the book trade works. However, I think that in his note on eBook copyright pages, what Hellman has done is simply to notice the way that copyright pages are broken in general, in terms of print books as well as eBooks.

I am a publisher of print books that have e-versions in most cases, and I sign contracts with authors, contributors, translators, illustrators, designers, and other publishers, contracts that involve the trading of rights under copyright. So, I am familiar with some of the complexities behind copyright and its role in book publishing.

Hellman enumerates seven ways in which he says eBook copyright pages are broken. In almost each case, as I was reading I said to myself, “Well this applies equally to print books, and publishers know this, but the copyright page is not intended to communicate the full picture of rights ownership behind a book.”

Let me address each of Hellman’s discovered problems with eBook copyright pages.

1) “Since there currently are not any copyright formalities, the copyright symbol means nothing. The work is subject to copyright with or without the copyright symbol.”

This rather obviously applies to print as well as eBooks.

2) “The work may also not be subject to copyright, for example, if Eric S. Hellman is a government employee, a robot, or a non-creative compiler of factual information. In these cases there is no copyright even if there is a copyright symbol present. There is no legal duty for a publisher to put a copyright symbol only on a copyrightable work. How is the ebook user supposed to know the true copyright status of a digital work?”

This states that a copyright can be falsely indicated when a work cannot be copyrighted, and also that the copyright status of a work is not required to be stated. I understand this to mean mainly that copyright does not rest on a copyright page, and that is worth pointing out, but again, it is rather obviously true of print books as well as eBooks. (Not all of my points will be quite this obvious.)

3) “Eric S. Hellman” is an uncommon name. But suppose the author is named “John Smith.” What use, then, is the copyright statement? It does not specify which Eric S. Hellman or which John Smith is the author.

This again applies obviously to print books, but furthermore, it is a complaint that can be answered in general terms. The copyright page gives some indication of rights ownership even though it doesn’t not paint the full picture or give a lot of specificity. In terms of identifying the true author, if the author is the copyright holder, normally a person would use other available information to figure out which “John Smith” is indicated. If the copyright page has CIP information from the Library of Congress, then the LoC’s name authority information will be included in the cataloging (normally indicated by a year of birth). Sometimes, finding the identity of the rights holder could take additional work. But it doesn’t follow that the copyright statement, incomplete as it may be, is without value. At a minimum, it indicates whether the author or the publisher owns the copyright (even if, in terms of control of rights, it may provide misleading information given stipulations in a contract about transfers of rights limited to a certain number of years, etc.) So Hellman’s observation is of one of quite a few ways in which the copyright page of a book, regardless of format, leaves something to be desired as a complete statement regarding rights holders. I don’t think this means that the copyright page is “broken,” however; it simply relates to the fact that the copyright page is not intended to be a full statement of rights.

4) “The asserted name of the copyright holder can’t be relied on because text in a digital file can be altered without a trace. It’s simple to take a digital copy of Merchants of Culture and change its asserted copyright holder to “John Smith,” then redistribute it. This is a negligible problem in the print world.

This one is clearly about eBooks and not print books, as Hellman points out specifically in this case. However, what he is pointing out is not merely a problem for the copyright page. It is also a problem for the actual copyright status of an eBook. If an eBook is altered and redistributed, the alterations likely represent a copyrightable creative contribution that is not reflected in the copyright statement. Or is it? Why should we presume that if the book is altered the copyright statement is not also altered? Not to alter the copyright statement would simply mean not finishing the book responsibly and creating a product into which false information has been introduced. This means that the copyright page in this sense is only broken when someone breaks it. And this is only if we accept Hellman’s assumption that we should look at the copyright page as something that is intended to paint the full picture of the copyright status of a book.

5) “The asserted date of publication may be unrelated to the date of the underlying copyright. For purposes of copyright (for example, when a work is produced as a work-for-hire), re-publication of a book does not change the copyright expiration date of the underlying text.”

This is true of print books as well, and it may come as a surprise to some that it can be a problem with first editions of print books, given the time that it takes to bring a work to publication once it is complete. Aside from the fact that normally only the year is given on the copyright page of a book (as opposed to the date, and, why not, the time), it is often the case that a work that is completed in one year does not reach publication until the next. There is, unfortunately, no agreement as to whether the date given on the copyright page represents the date of completion of the work (the copyright date) or the date of publication. Sometimes the copyright page will be clear as to whether one or the other is indicated. At Litwin Books, we like to be specific and state both the year of copyright and the year of publication when the two are different, but most publishers do not do this. And it is something that is not generally considered in the book world. For example, the rules for a book award may state in one place that the book needs to have been published the previous year and in another that it needs to have been copyrighted in the previous year, or where, in considering books for an award, stated copyright dates are taken as evidence of publication dates or vice versa. Unlike some of the other problems with copyright pages that Hellman notes, this one affects people who don’t even have a need to know information about who owns the rights. But it would be mistaken to think that it is a problem that effects eBooks specifically.

6) “There is no specification of the work being copyrighted. In print there’s not much ambiguity, but digital books are composite objects (text and graphics are always separate entities in a digital book file) and are frequently distributed in pieces. Some ebooks even have front matter distributed as a pdf file completely separate from the chapters. In other cases, an ebook may be displayed on a website that has a separate set of copyright statements.”

Hellman is correct to point out that when a print book is pulled apart and no new copyright information is provided about the separate parts of the book, a new problem is introduced. However, there is a related problem that existed already, which is that the simple copyright page never represented the complex status of rights regarding the different parts of a print book. A preface may be a work for hire owned completely by a publisher, and illustrations may be owned by the illustrator (or another publisher) and used under license. That complex state of affairs regarding the rights behind a book is standard, but I have never heard of a publisher attempting to represent it fully on the copyright page of a book (or what would have to be a copyright section if they were to attempt to represent all of the information concerning rights). If a new problem is introduced with eBooks in this regard, it is in the fact that new discrete digital objects are sometimes produced that have no copyright information attached to them.

7) “If the digital book is legally on your ebook reader, then, somehow, the rights holder has granted you some rights, perhaps under the terms of an explicit license or with the license implicit in its availability on a website. Either way, “all rights” have not been reserved. Licenses are not needed for printed books, but they may be needed for ebooks.”

The license agreements between publishers and consumers of information in electronic form are the big area, in my opinion, where the situation regarding the book trade has changed, and which librarians especially need to pay attention to. Where “all rights reserved” appears on a copyright page, presumably it has been placed there prior to a license agreement. Also, we can presume that it refers not really to “all rights” but to “all rights that we own” (since, for example, it is never taken to be denial of first sale doctrine). I think Eric is correct that in an eBook environment, this statement has to be modified in order to most correct, and further I think it is an easy modification to make. It could simply be amended to say, “All rights reserved where not covered by license agreement,” or words to that affect. However, it could also be argued that the statement is intended to apply to the content prior to a license, which is the same as the situation with print books. Publishers grant licenses all the time that allow specific parties, usually other publishers, to make limited use of content controlled by that publisher (e.g. a chapter in a book where the publisher still controls the rights). In that sense, “All rights reserved” indicates that a license is required for a transfer of rights. We often don’t know where such licenses are already in effect. But that is a somewhat technical point, and I will agree that Hellman has identified an issue here.

I think that my main point–that the issues Hellman has raised regarding copyright pages apply to print books as well–is fairly obvious. So, I wonder why these issues seem salient regarding eBooks and not so much to print books? I think the reason is that eBooks are forcing us to pay focused attention to issues of rights that have become unstable and have entered into play in new ways with digital content, and that this focus has inspired Hellman to turn a critical eye to traditional copyright pages. Perhaps we need complete statements of the rights situation surrounding works in a way that we didn’t before eBooks. If that is the case, then I could agree with Hellman that the eBook copyright page is broken, but only in the sense that it does not address a new set of needs. Perhaps Hellman assumes that but doesn’t state it directly. In any case, I think it would not be an entirely correct assumption, because print books and eBooks don’t exist in separate legal spheres, and copyright issues that have recently become salient affect print books today in ways that they didn’t previously, even if the change is related to e-publishing.

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